the research and technology issue

Innovation Challenge | The Benefits of Participating

When we as students think of NDSU as a “research university,” we may think the label only refers to the research that our professors take part in. This isn’t exactly true; there is an incredible number of opportunities for students to be involved with the research aspect of NDSU. One event on campus that encourages students to showcase their work in research is the annual Innovation Challenge.

According to its website, the Innovation Challenge serves to “encourage students to be innovative thinkers, enhance their entrepreneurial awareness, empower them to pursue entrepreneurial careers, expand their access to resources … and to engage with entrepreneurs and business leaders.”

In this challenge, undergraduate and graduate students alike propose their ideas that can fit into one of the innovation tracks, including products, services, agricultural and social innovations. During the span of a few months, participants compete in three rounds: Innovation proposal, semi-final presentation and progress preview and final presentation.

Students are competing for is a total of $27,000 in cash prizes that could set them “on the path to entrepreneurial stardom.” Across each of the four tracks, the best ideas are awarded $500 for placing third, $1,000 for second and a $5,000 grand prize.

To find out how the challenge prize money can benefit its winners, I contacted with a grand prize winner from 2013. Erin Nyren-Erickson is a graduate student at NDSU pursuing pharmaceutical science who entered the Innovation Challenge with a test she developed that checked for contaminants in the drug Heparin. She let me know how winning the Innovation Challenge impacted her research.

She said winning the challenge helped her to “see the project as a potential product” and “focus on the practicality (of her product) for the end user.” Overall, winning the challenge helped for her product development.

On top of the prize money, Nyren-Erickson told me she received a Technology-Based Entrepreneurship Development Grant from the North Dakota Department of Commerce and that “the award may have influenced their decision.” Aside from the extra funds, the Innovation Challenge also gave Nyren-Erickson and her work more recognition from the general public.

To learn more about the Innovation Challenge and how you can be involved, go to or contact the NDSU Research and Technology Park. Also, be sure to keep an eye out for the 2016 Challenge winners, who will be announced in March.

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